It was early in the day Nov. 17, the Wisconsin gun deer season opener, when Mason Holmquist first fired his gun. When he did, he put down a nine-point buck with a 16-3⁄8-inch inside spread. Though the buck dropped in its tracks, it would be a while before Mason got a good look at just how big it was.
Mason was in a one-man ladder stand in the Hazlehurst area to greet daylight on opening day. About 7:30 that morning, the buck arrived.
“I was sitting there looking at a squirrel, then all of a sudden I hear this kind of crashing noise and I looked over to my left and he’s coming in,” Mason said. “And then he’s chasing a doe, they’re like running.”
Soon, the opportunity to use the Ruger, chambered in .270 Winchester, he was holding would present itself.
“All of a sudden, he stopped and then the doe went behind the bushes and he’s, like, trying to find her, he’s ... looking away,” he said.
“And then I had a decision, like a ‘Texas heart shot’ or, like, a neck shot. And then I shot him in the neck and he fell right over ... and died.”
Where the buck fell, Mason’s view of it was blocked by trees, but the young hunter, showing patience that many veteran hunters wouldn’t, didn’t go rushing over to get a look at his buck.
Mason sat quietly a couple more hours for the benefit of his dad, who was hunting about 125 yards away, and also to see what interest the dead buck might generate.
“Sometimes deer like want to ... come and smell the dead deer, like sniff it and stuff. And then you can, you know, get more,” he said.
When Mason first saw the buck, and even immediately following the shot, he didn’t realize just how big it was.
“I thought it was a spike or something you know. Then, when it fell down, I saw two antlers, so I thought ‘Maybe it’s a six-pointer,’” he said. “I was hoping for a six-pointer.”
Mason said it was nice that the action at his stand that morning developed rapidly.
“It happened so fast I didn’t even have time to get buck fever or anything like that,” he said. “It just kind of happened.”
Mason’s dad, Craig Holmquist, would see how big the buck was before Mason did. He approached his son’s stand about two hours later.
“When I came over to his stand, I looked over and I saw it was a big animal,” he said. “I could see the head was sideways and the antlers were sticking up – and he didn’t know it yet.
“So we walked over in the woods and found this sucker sitting there and he was absolutely shocked by the size, because it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever shot and he’s only 12, and here he is getting a really big buck – you know, first big animal.”
Mason recalled the moment he first realized the size of the buck.
“I was like, ‘Oh ... this is so cool, this is so awesome,’” he said.
Not only was the rack impressive, Mason said the body was large – something that was evidenced when the deer was butchered.
“It was huge. The body – like when my dad was cleaning it and stuff – it had, I think, like 90 pounds of meat on it,” he said. “Like, meat – [just the] meat.”
The nine-pointer was not the youth’s first deer, but it was his first antlered buck. This year, Mason was old enough to do things a little differently.
“I set him up in a new spot – he’s 12 now, so he has a little bit more flexibility with hunting,” Craig said.
He also said his son has the proper temperament for the deer woods.
“He’s a natural hunter. He has the ability to sit and just watch, he’s not distracted, he’s just all over it.”
Craig, like his son, also showed patience immediately following his son’s shot.
“He stayed up in his tree for two more hours and I knew he had one, but I wanted to hunt for a little bit that morning. So he stayed hunting, I stayed hunting, and we waited,” he said.
Craig said the big buck was not a familiar animal.
“The friends that we hunt by said they’ve never seen one that big back there, so they were pretty pumped.”
He also said the buck was obviously into the breeding season.
“This guy was in full rut. The neck was thick and his organs were really large and you could tell he was hot and heavy after that doe.”
Craig said they took a lot of pictures of Mason and his buck.
“That was a very special time,” he said of the hunt. “Mason was pretty stoked on that.”
Mason really enjoys pursuing whitetails and began bow hunting this fall. Asked if he enjoys venison, Mason answered in the affirmative.
“Oh yeah. Steak is so good,” he said.
His favorite venison meal is a favorite that’s probably shared by many other venison lovers.
“I love the backstraps, like wrapped in bacon,” Mason said.
He had plans for those impressive antlers, too.
“I’m going to mount the antlers for sure, and probably that. That’s probably what I’ll do.”
Craig Turk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org